28 October 2010

Book Review: Air Battle Central Europe

OK – it’s time for another book review as I’ve just finished reading “Air Battle Central Europe” by Alfred Price, published in 1986.


From the inside jacket: “If it ever came to an all-out fight between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces, the flatlands of northern Germany could be the scene of some of the fiercest ground fighting. This book vividly describes the sort of air actions that would take place above, in front of and behind that land battle.”

The book is based around a series of interviews with a number of high ranking and middle ranking NATO officers and is primarily focused on NORTHAG and the Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF). It begins with an imagined 2 ATAF Communiqué reporting on the air support provided to NORTHAG on the first day of a war in Central Europe.

From there, the author interviews the Commander of 2 ATAF who provides a very interesting “View from the Top” – an overview of his assets, what he might receive in wartime conditions, his responsibilities in a war, how they would attempt to blunt the initial strike by WARPAC etc. He discusses AWACS, SAMs, the need to take the offensive and results of putting enemy airfields out of action, the role of recon fighters, Close Air Support (CAS) and helicopters (including some interesting thoughts on the Hind). Its actually pretty useful stuff, and is easy to understand.

The next interview is with a British Army Colonel who in the early 1980’s was responsible for coordinating air and land operations in NORTHAG. He describes how army commanders make decisions and requests for air support. Interestingly he points out that the CO of NORTHAG used to say that the job of the air force was to keep the enemy air force off his back and stop the enemy’s second echelon of reserves from linking up with their front echelon. This meant that the army had to accept that at least for the first few days of a conflict the only friendly aircraft they would see would be passing through their area at high speed on their way to and from targets beyond the battle area.

The majority of the chapters in the book is focused on different aircraft and their role in a conflict as described through interview by typically a senior officer from that aircraft’s squadron. They are:
The Air Defence Battle – USAF F-15C
The Long Punch – USAF F-111E
The Bridge Droppers – USAF F-111F
The Airfield Bashers – RAF Tornado GR1
The Carpet-Bombers – Luftwaffe Tornado
The Jump-Jet Dimension – RAF Harrier GR3
The Battlefield Bruisers – USAF A-10
The Intelligence Gatherers – USAF Phantom RF-4C
The Tank-Swatters – British Army Lynx and Gazelle
The Electronic Foxers – USAF EF-111Raven
The ‘Wild Weasels – USAF Phantom F-4G and Phantom F-4E
Guardians of the Baltic Shore – Marine Flieger Tornado and F-104

There is also a chapter on the Air Defence of the UK and the book finishes with a wrap up Overview, putting the whole picture together.

The whole book is excellent and I learnt a lot, but the chapters of most worth to a “standard wargame” i.e. focused on the ground operations, are the chapters on the CAS and helo operations – looking at the Harrier, A-10 and Lynx. So I’ll try and draw out what I found most interesting from each chapter.

Harrier GR3
I’m a bit of a fan of the old Harrier – so much of the chapter was not particularly new to me. The bit that I found most interesting was that although the Harriers normally operate in pairs, the RAF are not keen to send them out in penny-packets. Even though the Harriers are dispersed, they would prefer to attack an appropriate target sorties of 12 aircraft plus. That’s a lot of cluster bombs.

Harriers would not normally operate in what a wargamer would consider CAS – instead operating on the far side of the battle line.

BL755 Cluster bombs

A-10 Warthog
A-10’s on the other hand do operate in pairs normally, with two pairs coming together on the odd occasion to hammer an enemy armoured force. An A-10 gun run will normally only target one vehicle, unless two happen to be very close together, but a single A-10 should be able to knock out 10 tanks in a single mission.

A-10’s use Forward Air Controllers to identify AA systems like the ZSU-23-4 and try to engage them with their Mavericks, meaning then can stand off, out of range of the Shilka, and still destroy it.

A-10 pilots view the Hind as their most serious airborne threat.

Lynx AH.1
I found this chapter very interesting and it really bought into focus how the British Army intended to use their anti-tank helicopters. It describes how the Gazelle and Lynx’s work together, how they plan and set up operations, and how the helos move into firing positions. “When flying nap-of-the-earth one feels more like an infantryman than an aviator. It is more akin to being an airborne Land Rover than a low-level fast jet.”

I was interested to read that all the firing positions would have been previously scouted, how artillery would be used to force tank crews to button up, and how a squadron sized attack would take place – trying to get side shots where possible on individually selected vehicles.

“If everything had gone according to plan, the first the enemy knew of the attack would be when up to 24 tanks and other key vehicles in his force suddenly burst into flames; and then between 10 and 20 seconds later, depending on the helicopters’ firing range, a whole lot more would go up; and with another 20 seconds, more still. That would certainly make a tank battalion commander’s eyes water – if that is not shock action, I don’t know what is! Without doubt it would throw an enemy column into complete and utter chaos and bring their advance to a halt until they could sort themselves out.”

The chapter completely changed my ideas of how I would try to write rules for how attack helos would operate in a Cold War Hot scenario.

Now – something highly unlikely to ever be needed in a wargame – but really cool – the book discussed some of the weapons systems used to attack large concentrations of armour and airfields. So I thought I’d show you some youtube clips of some of the systems discussed in the book.

West German MW-1


Durandel BLU-107

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand air power and how it relates to the ground battle. I got mine cheaply too - so that helps!

Have fun


26 October 2010

GDW Cold War Madness...

When it came to gaming during my spotty-faced youth (as opposed to my spotty-faced adulthood) I was in the RPG crowd. In fact, much to my sadness now, I didn't really know any miniature wargamers. So, during the 1980's I moved from AD&D to Traveller to Twilight:2000. The I hit TW:2000 I was in my element. I absolutely loved it, and I was old enough to pretty much buy every little thing for it as it came along.

This was the start of my slid into Games Designer Workshop (GDW) madness, where I worshipped at the altar of Frank Chadwick, and tried to buy every Cold War wargame that he wrote, co-wrote, or happened to walk past the desk one day when someone else was writing a game.

So - today's post is all about Cold War Hot related GDW boxed sets.

Now I have to start with Twilight:2000


TW2000 was "my" game. If I had a choice witht he old gaming group - we played TW2000. I never really played "Last Battle" - but I'm pretty sure I owned every TW2000 book, magazine etc. I even wrote a couple of TW2000 tournament games for Macqauriecon, an annual RPG convention at my university. I'm actually still quite proud of both those games...

Anyway - moving right along. My next purchase (its a long time ago so I might have got the order slightly out of wack) was the Assault Series.


Much to my regret I never bought the Bundeswehr boxed set. Now (for whatever reason) I just about be prepared to do anything for it and the Reinforcement sets. This game is actually an excellent source for my current fixation with Cold War Hot wargaming and the info in the Briefings is now worth the price of the game alone.

Next up was the classic "The Third World War" series:


At least this time I made sure I got the complete set. Sadly I have never played these games - I never had a group of mates interested enough. But one of my many secret dreams is to have a game of this, with all the maps joined together. It's a pretty cool sight to see.

Next up was my first foray into air wargames. The Air Superiority Series.


With this set I also managed to get the "Desert Falcons" supplement, which amusingly enough ends in 1984 with some Tomcats shooting down some Libyan jets. How ex-GDW employess probably wish this could have included the Gulf wars...

Next up was the classic version (IMHO) of Harpoon:


When I first read that the naval scenarios in "Red Storm Rising" were gamed out using Larry Bond's Harpoon I was hooked. When GDW bought it out I knew I had to get it. A great game, which happily I was able to get two supplements "Battles of the Third World War" and "South Atlantic War". Again, just for the info these games and books provide - they are well worth it.

Finally, in my humble collection I give you these two:


Many an hour has been sent reading and playing these two games - particularly "Team Yankee". Once again, both these games have excellent reference material and Team Yankee is a good reference for Cold War Hot gaming.

So that's my little wander down memory lane - thanks for bearing with me and the bad photos of some of my GDW Cold War Hot boxed treasures.

Have fun,


20 October 2010

MMS BMP-1 and more BMPs

Time for another update. This week has a BMP focus. Not that BMPs on my blog are anything new, but I have finished another one from another manufacturer and have finished putting together 2 more ACE Models BMP-1 kits.

As I understand it, at least here in Australia MMS BMP-1s are relatively rare. Well before seeing this one I had certainly never seen one before - but I guess that's not saying much! This one came from my local arms dealer - Simon - and was happily bought by me.

This was a very straight forward build - as in it was completely built and just needed to be painted. As usual I have painted it in my standard Russian scheme. So without further ado:

Side View

Rear Top View

This was BMP number 5, and here are the next two... a couple of ACE Model kits that I have just finished building.

All in all, if I disregard the tracks, these weren't such bad kits. I'll provide a more complete review further done the track once I've totally finished them.


(Don't look too closely to the tracks!)

No BMP-1 youtube clips this week - there are enough of those in the earlier BMP posting.

Have fun


13 October 2010

ICM Ural-375A Command Vehicle

Every army - even wargaming armies - have to have some command vehicles - and luckily enough some command vehicles are pretty cool looking. For a particular mission I needed a least 1 Command Truck and the ICM range provides a number of Soviet Command trucks to choose from. Admittedly they all look pretty similar to me... but I'm reasonably sure that I made a Ural-375A.

Here's a wikipedia link on the Ural-375 and a link to an English website on Russian Military Trucks which even has a Ural 375 Manual available for download!


I made this kit a couple of months ago (sorry) and it is the first truck I've ever made. I was actually pretty impressed with the kit itself - very different to ACE Models - nice clean sprues etc.

The most major downfall in my opinion is the rather simplistic instruction sheet. Basically 1 sheet of paper, showing the different stages of the kit from just one direction - so in some cases I had to use my imagination to work out how things go. As a result I think I managed to get the entire suspension system upside down!

I'm sure I also managed to stuff up other numerous bits under the command cabin.

Under the cab itself there are a couple of peices to cover the underneath of the engine and after hours of struggling tio work out how they fitted, I realised you needed to trim about 2mm off one end of each peice to make it fit. I have no idea why ICM just couldn't make it the right size?

But in the end I think you end up with a pretty good looking kit.


I painted the model the same as all my Soviet kit - very straight forward.

Here's a couple of pictures of the completed kit - skillfully arranged so you get to see as little of the suspension as possible!

Side View

Semi-Rear View

That's it for now - apart from the standard youtube clips.

Some good views of Ural Command Truck amongst other vehicles

An interesting clip with a Ural Command Truck on the back of a PTS-M

A bunch of different Ural trucks

Have fun


05 October 2010

The Second Harrier GR.3

I'm sorry that my first post for October is a little late - won't happen again! Well I hope not anyway. Last week was incredibly busy with the final preparation and then the running of the Flames of War Tournament over the October long weekend, here in Sydney. I think we pulled it off pretty well, but I had no time for life's little luxuries, like updating this blog. But now I do...

At various times in the past I've indicated that one of the projects I've been building for is a special mission involving a Spetsnaz attack on a Harrier hide. To finalise all the things I needed for the mission I had to finish a second Harrier GR.3 and a couple of British vehicles. Well I have all the vehicles now - just the matter of painting them up - and I've finished my second Harrier.

I am to get this mission and all the bits and peices that go into it, ready to be played in the next month or two - well before Christmas anyway.

I wanted the second Harrier to look different to the first one (that appeared in my very first post - I think)so I looked into some of the different weapon options available to the GR.3. I quickly decided that I wanted to go with a couple of Laser Guided Bombs. In reality this would mean that one of the Aden gun pods would be removed and replaced with a very similar looking laser designation pod - so I as able to simply leave the gun pods on the model as is.

As luck would have it I had to entertain the son of one of my wife's friends for a couple of days so we went down to my local hobby store and bought a couple of Airfix kits to make up together. He choose a Bucanneer - which came with two LGB. Once I managed to convince him that he really didn't need them, I was able to put them aside to add to the Harrier.

So without further ado - here it is

Second Harrier GR.3 in side profile

Now a couple of shots of the two Harriers together (just to prove I didn't cheat and redo the first one!)



No video links today - I think I nabbed all the best ones on my previous Harrier post - so if you want to check those out - go to the very first post.

Thanks and have fun